Food waste threatens the environment
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Almost everybody is crying of hunger in this country in the recent times. Hardly is anyone thinking about the quantity of food that is being wasted everyday. This practice is becoming a threat to the environment. The waste of food is being ample, suggest authorities.
But the waste is not circumstanced by only the individuals. Food waste transpires in the companies that process, produce and retail food. In 2011 alone, there is an account, which bemoans that 1.3 billion tonnes of foods are wasted annually. In the global food production index, this loss is one third of food that is produced annually.
In a description of June 2013 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), global food wastage hits $1trn per annum. The revelation from this year’s World Environment Day with the theme, ‘Think, Eat, Save, Reduce your Foodprints’, is an eye-opener to the danger food waste posits on the environment.
There are expressions-of-grief by the establishments that the amount of food that is being wasted, is capable of feeding as many millions of people as possible everyday; but most especially, those who drink tears for tea and ashes for bread before they go to bed. The Executive Director of Environment Rights Action (ERA), Dr. Godwin Ojo does not hide his voice to this fact. Purportedly, he says that as a result of food waste, majority of the citizens are endangered by the menace of lack-of-food and, the sphere is being pressurized by climate revolution.
Upon that this year’s World Environment Day theme was mutually elected by the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Ojo says that the dangers the environment is facing cannot be overemphasized, with their in-fact unyielding energy catastrophes. The Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola cries that food waste contributes to the global warming. In his wisdom, Fashola supposedly says: Food wastage leads to the squandering of resources, such as fertilisers, pesticides and fuel, used for transportation.
In a UNEP story: Our growing population puts so much pressure on the environment that nowadays the natural resources are no longer as abundant as they used to be. How we use and dispose of non-renewable resources is radically altering our ecosystems and even the planet’s renewable resources (such as water, timber or fish) are rapidly being exhausted. We have now reached a tipping point where the quality of air and water needs to be improved, the level of production needs to be balanced and the amount of waste generated needs to be reduced.
Fashola says that the volume of food going into landfill sites is enormous and this creates methane, which is one of the most detrimental donors to climate change. The governor has fears following the statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, an agency of the United Nations (UN), which demonstrates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually around the globe. Conversely, he appends that if more than 20,000 children below the age of five die daily from hunger, the country’s population is threatened and this is environmentally bad, where statistics show that one out of every seven people in the world, including Nigeria, go to bed hungry. The governor nonetheless discards the report, describing it as “unacceptable, unfair and harsh on posterity”. His unacceptability is hinged on the fact that producing companies, retailers and consumers waste food that was very much healthy for human consummation. The governor expresses that unless Nigerians make informed choices in buying and expenditure, food waste may become a phenomenon that would be farfetched to stop.
There are magnitudes of fear concerning the threat of food waste to the environment. This informed the estimation of the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, that this year's theme: 'Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Food print', is the chief purpose to underline the enormity of food desecration worldwide and the related environmental, humanitarian and economic connotations. This she says that the nuances are putting agriculture and food security at risk, thus effecting ruthless corollaries on defenceless and underprivileged agriculturally-reliant people in the civilization.
The Minister says that the 2012 floods in Nigeria wreaked havoc on several states of the federation, adversely affecting human lives, property, livelihoods, settlements, fresh water/coastal water resources, fisheries, forest, biodiversity, agricultural farmlands, food supplies, health/sanitation and human migrations, placing a huge challenge to food supply and food security across the nation.
The authorities say that people do not take to knowledge their consummation of food, which is particularly what this year’s World Environment Day theme intends to exact. Part of negative environmental impacts is caused by food waste. It is also a colossal drain on natural resources. People just throw away food, not minding the negative impact on the environment. Apart from the companies that produce, process and retail food assumed to be in the gargantuan habit of wasting food, a testimony by professionals says the contrary. It says that food left over on plate and pots not used, expired-processed food, fruits and vegetables not eaten and sundry, which later are thrown into the trashcan, constitute to environmental degradation. And from a little quantity of food waste thrown out a day, multiplies in a week, month and year.
The unpardonable road networks have been fingered as one of the causes of food waste as it affects the easy transportation of food from areas where there is much food to areas where there is shortage. There has been an outcry that not investing on a-post harvest food preservation is detrimental. And the government’s incessant clutching on using the farmlands of the local farmers that feed over 60% of the population is awful.
Specialists say that inadequate storage of food before purchase should be drastically checkmated to curtail the environmental impact of waste food. An account says that immensity of wasted food, which ends up in landfills, and decomposing food in landfills, which produces methane gas (known as one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming), should be diminished. Creating awareness of the significance in the ease of recycling should be encouraged.
Consultants say that to save the environment there should be discouragement of food waste, because it leads to wasteful use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, more fuel used for transportation, and more rotting food. The citizens should not be imitating end-users in rich countries, which waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the total grid food assembly of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). There should be enhancement in financial, administrative and practical constrictions in harvesting techniques as well as storage – and nipping amenities – to avert food waste and losses, which happen chiefly at early steps of the food value procession.
In level of coordination, experts suggest that farmer-buyer agreements can be helpful. Among industries, retailers and consumers raising awareness is expedient in finding the optimum ways to waste food curtailing. Also, the country should spare itself of the financial waste, like the United States, which her 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. Again, the United Kingdom households dissipate a sketchy 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes procured.
The powers-that-be are saying that the application of “Sustainable consumption” is important, as it is all about ‘doing more and better with less.’ They say that this would reduce resource use, degradation and pollution, while increasing the quality of life for all. A system that will encourage reduction of waste and save cost should moreover be supported.
Ojo seemingly explains that the trend fuelled by food wastages resulting from lack of access to food supply due to poor road infrastructure and the capitalist greed of agribusiness men has to be readdressed. Fashola, according-to-the-grapevine, calls on retailers, hospitality industry and restaurant operators to remodel product packages to avoid waste and directed religious bodies, the government and non-governmental organisations, schools and institutions of higher learning to move up the campaign against wastage of food, because the loss of property and livelihood is one that citizens must upsettingly guide against to ease global hotness.
It’s possible that the country would get it right if it pays attention to the advise by the UN Resident Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Dauda Toure, which invariably suggests that this year's theme is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign; everyone is being encouraged to pay attention to the consumption patterns and take urgent steps to reduce their foodprint. The Minister of Environment hence articulates that given the imbalances in lifestyles, standards of living, economic status and the enormous environmental challenges facing our people, there is the need for us to be more aware of the environmental impacts and economic consequences of the food choices we make to enable us make informed decisions on food management.